Bowhunting velvet mule deer has become one of my favorite early season hunts. I truly believe this is one of the most challenging hunts out there. Sneaking within bow range of a velvet buck and sealing the deal is quite a feat.
More often than not, stalks end with some sort of mishap and the deer bounding away, however, my goal is to learn from each and every encounter. After every stalk, I go over what I did right — and wrong — and what I could have done differently. It’s always good to learn from your mistakes.
When it comes to bowhunting velvet mule deer there are several challenging factors. First, most bucks in the early season bed in big bachelor groups; this means tons of eyes and deer to maneuver around. Second, the bucks know where to bed; they have amazing hiding spots with numerous exit strategies. Usually bucks choose a bedding site so they can smell anything coming behind them and can see anything in front. This is great for the bucks, but can make it incredibly hard for the hunter.
In my opinion, the most challenging aspect of spot-and-stalk hunting has to do with marking the buck. The second you start a long stalk from the backside, it doesn’t take long to realize that everything looks completely different. It’s easy to second-guess where that deer is located, so I can’t stress enough the importance of taking the time to get numerous references. Line things up so when you come in at a different angle, you can easily find a buck again. Confidence is key, and knowing where the buck is will really help when closing the distance on the stalk. Lastly, you must stay positive and continue doing stalks to be successful. It doesn’t usually happen on the first, second or third try, so keep going and learning from your mistakes!
As far as gear on a spot-and-stalk muley hunt, it’s crucial to have confidence in your setup. I shoot a Mathews Avail, which is in an incredible women’s bow that I love. When it comes to a bowsight, I’ve shot a single pin HHA for as long as I can remember. I can’t say enough good things about this sight. Knowing that I can range, dial and shoot at the precise distance needed is super helpful for me. Next, I use a Rage Hypodermic broadheads for incredible penetration and huge wound channels. I pair this with an Easton Injexion Deep Six arrow to utilize all the benefits of a thin-diameter arrow. I think having less wind-drift with a thin arrow is extremely helpful, especially out West, and I love the deep penetration these arrows deliver even at long distances.
Overall, pursuing velvet mule deer is just a fun and rewarding challenge. I’ve had just as many or more hunts where I go home with only tag soup, but in my opinion that’s what makes the successful hunts even more special. To truly understand how awesome it is to accomplish this feat, you have to understand the frustration as well.
For a glimpse of what it’s like to pursue velvet muleys with archery gear, check out the video below. And good luck hunting!
Images and video by Melissa Bachman